By John Feinstein
Golf Magazine

Golf Digest

Fifty-one weeks a year, Mike Lardon is a psychiatrist, a man who has worked, many years to reach a point where people will pay him good money to listen to their problems.

For the past several years, Lardon has worked one week a year for free in a job that has taken every bit of his considerable knowledge of the human psyche: He has caddied at the PGA Tour Qualifying School finals for his younger brother, Brad.

“Some vacation,” he joked last December during the six-day event at PGA West “I get home from this thing and just collapse.”

Last year, Mike and Brad Lardon had even more reason than usual to feel completely drained when Q-School was over. Brad had readied the finals for the fifth time. Once before, in 1990, he had survived. He went into the last day in 1993 knowing he almost certainly needed a round in the 60s to get his playing privileges back.

Grinding away all day, he came to the l8th hole at The Jack Nicklaus Resort Course at six-under par for the tournament. It was late in the day and the word around was that six-under was going to be the magic number. Everyone at six or better would celebrate; five or worse would Wait ‘Till Next Year.

Dr. Michael Lardon and PGA Tour Player Brad Lardon
Dr. Michael Lardon and PGA Tour Player Brad Lardon

The PGA Tour almost always selects a course for the finals with an 18th hole that has water on it. At PGA West, water is all the way down the right side of the fairway and in front of the green on the last hole.

The pin on the final day was set, naturally, on the front right so that a player in need of a birdie had to risk playing directly over the water to get close to the flag. Lardon didn’t need a birdie. “Don’t even think about playing near the water, brother Mike told him, “Let’s just get the ball on the middle of the green, make par, and get out of here.”

He spoke casually, not wanting Brad to even think about how big the green was and how two-putting from certain spots might be difficult. Make it sound easy and it will be easy

Brad Lardon took his brothers’ advice, played safely left of the pin and the danger, and got his ball on the green – 45 feet away. Neither brother said anything, but both knew that a two-putt was no lock.

Brad’s first putt came up about five feet short. Mike Lardon felt slightly queasy. His brother now had a five-foot putt that would decide where he would spend the next 12 months of his life. They looked it over carefully, Brad lined it up, hit the put firmly and watched it hit the cup, bounce into the air and.drop in

Their knees buckled almost simultaneously. “Six days of grinding and it all comes down to this.” Brad Lardon said. He looked exhausted. So did his brother. “I just hope.” he said, “this is the last Q-School I get to see.”

A worthy goal. Unfortunately, Brad’s luck in 1994 on Tour wasn’t quite as good as his luck during that final-round 69 at PGA West. For the year, he earned $21,429 and finished 223d on the money list. In all likelihood, Mike Lardon’s 1994 vacation will be spent in Greenlefe, Florida.

School will be back in session.